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Add two more to Brooksville's City Council races

Two more City Council candidates filed paperwork before the Friday noon deadline, bringing to six the number who have qualified in races for two open seats.

The last-minute entries set the stage for an unusually eventful December election, which also may include a vote on whether to recall three sitting members.

Normally, Brooksville voters would vote on only two seats: the one to be vacated by Luther Cason, who is running for Hernando County Commission, and the one that Mayor John Tucker is trying to keep.

But because of the recall effort, voters may vote on two others also.

Assuming the recall proceeds as expected, voters will choose whether to keep or dismiss members Joe Bernardini and Mary Ann Lazowski.

Voters also would be able to pick replacements for them the same day, said City Clerk Karen Phillips.

Either way, the election promises to be hotly contested.

Recent controversies over the firing of the police chief and the resignation of the former City Manager Jim Malcolm are expected to take center stage, according to one of two candidates who qualified Friday.

Sherry Pedonesi, who was on the citizens board that deliberated last month on whether to bring back the police chief, said she will run on a platform of reconciliation.

"The city needs to heal and move forward," said Pedonesi, who was too ill to vote on the police chief issue but said she would have voted against bringing him back.

She is joined in the race for the Cason seat by Mary A. Staib, who has been active in the recall movement, and by Bob DeWitt of 1003 Whiteway Drive, who filed papers Friday.

In the race for Tucker's seat, the mayor faces off with Ernie Wever, who is another recall advocate, and against Byron Winn, who qualified earlier in the week.

The Tucker situation is odd.

He is a recall target, but his term ends this year anyway. So he could conceivably be recalled by voters in the same December election at which he wins another four-year term.

In that case, the city clerk said it was her understanding that Tucker would be off the council until January, then start the new term.

The complicated political situation was triggered by a summer of turmoil at City Hall.

Malcolm, then city manager, announced in late May he was firing police Chief Ed Tincher and fire Chief Jim Adkins. The decision caused an uproar, and Malcolm later backpedaled on the Adkins dismissal.

The Tincher controversy continued, even as a separate dispute mushroomed over whether Malcolm, who also was a School Board member, should be allowed to work simultaneously for the city and the School Board.

He resigned from the city job.

Some expected that to take the steam out of the recall movement against Bernardini, Lazowski and Tucker. But it did not. A judge is expected to decide next week on a date for the special recall vote.

Phillips said the vote may end up being held Dec. 6, the day of the regular city election.

Pedonesi, an opponent of the recall, said she hopes city voters won't sweep their city council clean that day. "I don't think that would be in the best interest of the city," she said.

Staib, aiming for Cason's seat, hopes the opposite.

City government "has definitely been derailed," she said. "We have to be a little more pro-business. We have to downsize city government."